No. 14 Fighter Squadron (RNZAF): Second World War

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No.14 Fighter Squadron, RNZAF, took part in the fighting in the South Pacific, serving on Guadalcanal, during the invasions of New Georgia and Bougainville and the long campaigns to neutralise Rabaul and Kavieng.

No.14 Fighter Squadron was formed at the Fighter OTU at Ohakea in April 1942. It was built around the surviving personnel of No.488 Squadron, who had escaped from the fall of Singapore and Java and returned to New Zealand in March.

By the end of April the squadron had moved to Masterton. At first a shortage of aircraft meant that it had twelve Curtiss Kittyhawk fighters and six Harvard trainers.

1943

In April 1943 No.14 Squadron moved to Espiritu Santo, where it took over responsibility for the air defence of the island. The squadron was frequently ordered into the air to intercept unidentified aircraft, but didn't make contact with the Japanese. Only one Japanese aircraft was firmly identified during this period - a bomber that attacked Segond Channel in late May but escaped intact.

In June 1943 the squadron moved forward to Guadalcanal to relieve No.15 Squadron. It arrived just before a major Japanese raid on 12 June. The squadron scrambled eight aircraft during this raid and claimed six victories. Flying Officer Morpeth of No.14 Squadron was killed during this raid.

The squadron also took part in the battle against a third major Japanese raid in June, on 16 June. This time it was given the task of patrolling over the shipping area north of Guadalcanal. The squadron joined a dogfight over Savo Island and claimed five Japanese fighters at no loss to themselves.

On 30 June 1943 the Americans landed on Rendova Island, New Georgia. No.14 Squadron played a part in the fighter defense of Rendova, flying its first patrol on the day of the invasion. The squadron had a bad first day - it didn't encounter any Japanese aircraft and lost one pilot and two aircraft in a crash on the runway. The squadron did better on 1 July claiming seven victories and three probables. Two aircraft and one pilot were lost.

On 3 July eight of the squadron's P-40s were jumped at 14,000 by forty Japanese aircraft. The squadron claimed five victories. One pilot was injured and had to crash land on the Russell Islands, and other aircraft were damaged.

The squadron also provided escorts for American bombers during this period, including for two attacks on 15 July and an attack on Japanese shipping at Kahili on 17 July.

On 25 July No.14 Squadron was relieved by No.16 Squadron and moved back to Espiritu Santo. After a few days there they were replaced by No.17 Squadron and returned to New Zealand after a tour in which they had claimed 22 Japanese aircraft at a coast of four aircraft and three pilots.

Early in November No.14 Squadron replaced No.15 Squadron in the RNZAF Fighter Wing, based at Ondonga on the western coast of New Georgia.

On 11 December the RNZAF carried out its first fighter-bomber mission. This only involved three aircraft from the RNZAF Wing, each with two 100lb bombs and was an attack on a Japanese position at Kieta on Bougainville. A second fighter-bomber mission on 14 December resulted in the destruction of a bridge in the south-west of Bougainville. Over the next two years the RNZAF would carry out an increasingly large number of fighter-bomber missions.

In the second half of December No.15 Squadron replaced No.14 Squadron.

1944

In mid-February Nos.14 and 18 Squadrons supported the Allied invasion of Green Island (between Bougainville and Rabaul). On 15 February, the first day of the landings, each squadron flew twenty sorties but they arrived too late to take part in the only air combat of the day. After the initial invasion the New Zealand Wing flew patrols over Green Island on every other day until 7 March when the Americans had completed an airfield and moved fighter squadrons onto the island.

In March 1944 the Japanese launched a major counterattack on the American beachhead on Bougainville. No.14 Squadron took part in the defensive battle that followed. On 22 March it attacked a Japanese troop concentration near the front line, and along with Nos.18 and 19 Squadron took part in a series of attacks on the Japanese.

On 7 March the squadron took part in the first RNZAF fighter-bomber raid on Rabaul, sending eight aircraft. After this the RNZAF's fighters operated as fighter-bombers on just about every mission.

No.14 Squadron was based on Bougainville from June-August 1944. During this period it provided air cover for the Allied base at Empress Augusta Bay and carried out fighter-bomber sweeps across the Japanese occupied parts of Bougainville and the Rabaul area.

On 11 December 1944 No.14 Squadron replaced No.18 Squadron, RNZAF, as the sole Allied fighter squadron based on Green Island, between Bougainville and Rabaul. It had several tasks - to fly dawn and dusk patrols, to have aircraft ready to scramble to respond to a Japanese raid, to provide escorts for 'Dumbo' air sea rescue aircraft and to maintain a standing patrol over the isolated Japanese base at Rabaul.

Although Japanese resistance was limited these operations could sometimes be costly. On 15 January Nos.14 and 16 Squadrons made an attack on Toboi, just to the south-west of Rabaul. Afte the attack Fl. LT Keefe of No.14 Squadron had to bail out. He landed safely in Simpson Harbour and was seen to swim out of the harbour. Aircraft from the two squadrons provided air cover all day, but an attempt to land a Catalina was foiled by Japanese anti-aircraft fire. As their fuel began to run short the Corsairs were forced to return home. On their way they ran into a tropical storm. Five aircraft crashed into the sea, a sixth crashed on Green Island and a seventh disappeared. None of the missing aircraft or their crews could be found. Keefe himself was captured by Japanese but died as a POW.

For ten days No.14 Squadron had to carry out all of these operations by itself, but on 21 December No.16 Squadron, RNZAF, joined it on the island and the two squadrons shared the duties until No.14 Squadron's tour ended in January 1945. The squadron was then replaced by No.17 Squadron.

1945

In April 1945 the squadron was one of four RNZAF squadrons that moved to Bougainville, when the number of fighter squadrons was doubled from two to four.

The squadrons arrived just as the chain of command on Bougainville was improved. Before April all requests for air support went from the 2nd Australian Corps to the Commander, Air, North Solomons, who then issued orders to the RNZAF. From April a direct link was established between the Australians and the RNZAF.

All four squadrons had to provide dawn and dusk patrols to guard against any possible Japanese air attacks. They were also used for ground attack missions, attacking tactical targets close to the Australian lines, troop concentrations behind the lines and targets around the main Japanese bases. In April the four squadrons flew an average of 50-60 sorties per day.

On 26 April forty-one aircraft from Nos.14, 22 and 26 Squadrons carried out an attack on a Japanese position on a road in the Hiru Hiru area. This involved a series of attacks along a 700 yard stretch of road and the jungle 25 yards to either side of the road. The squadrons attacked in turn, each taking a different section of the road. The attack was a total success and the Australians were able to advance past the former Japanese roadblock with ease.

In May-June 1945 No.14 was relieved by No.15 Squadron, RNZAF, as part of a wider move in which all four fighter squadrons were replaced.

In July 1945 No.14 Squadron replaced No.25 Squadron on Emirau, to the north-west of New Ireland. The squadron's main role was to keep a constant daylight patrol over the Japanese base at Kavieng and carry out occasional bombing raids.

On 7 August the squadron ceased operations on Emirau and on the following day it flew to Los Negros, the most westerly RNZAF base of the Pacific War. This was meant to be an interim base before the squadron moved on to Borneo. No.14's servicing unit was delayed and it never became operational on Los Negros. Instead No.17 Squadron had to remain in place until the end of the war.

After the end of the war No.14 Squadron was retained as part of the RNZAF. From 1946 to 1948 it formed part of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force in Japan, and it later moved to Cyprus.

Aircraft
1942: Curtiss Kittyhawk and Harvard
1942-44: Curtiss Kittyhawk
1944-47: Chance Vought F4U Corsair

Location
April 1942: Ohakea, New Zealand
April 1942-: Masterton, New Zealand
-April 1943: New Zealand
April-June 1943: Santo
June-July 1943: Guadalcanal

October-November 1943: Santo
November-December 1943: Ondonga, New Georgia

February 1944: Guadalcanal
February-March 1944: Bougainville

June 1944: Guadalcanal
June-August 1944: Bougainville

November-December 1944: Santo
December 1944-January 1945: Green Island

March 1945: Santo
April-May 1945: Bougainville

July-7 August 1945: Emirau
8 August 1945-: Los Negros

Books

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (5 June 2013), No. 14 Fighter Squadron (RNZAF): Second World War , http://www.historyofwar.org/air/units/RNZAF/No_14_sqn_RNZAF.html

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